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Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade by [Spring, Justin]
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Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Life in the closet proves boisterous indeed in this biography of an iconic figure of the pre-Stonewall gay demimonde. Steward (1909–1993) was an English professor, a novelist who wrote both well-received literary fiction and gay porn, a confidant of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder, a furtive but exuberant erotic adventurer whose taste for sailors, rough trade, and violent sadomasochism endeared him to sex researcher Alfred Kinsey; later in life, he became Phil Sparrow, official tattoo artist of the Oakland, Calif., Hell's Angels. Spring (Paul Cadmus) fleshes out this colorful story by quoting copiously from his subject's highly literate journals and sex diaries—his Stud File contained entries on trysts with everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Rock Hudson—which afford an unabashed account of Steward's erotic picaresque and the yearnings that drove it. (His swerve from academia into tattooing, with its mix of physical pain and proximity to nubile male flesh, was essentially a fetish turned into a business.) Spring's sympathetic and entertaining story of a life registers the limitations imposed on homosexuals by a repressive society, but also celebrates the creativity and daring with which Steward tested them. Photos. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for Secret Historian

“Somewhere in the United States, there may be an attic containing the written remnants of a previously unchronicled 20th-century life that was even more astonishing than the one the writer Justin Spring discovered in San Francisco a few years ago. But even the most skeptical reader of his new book, Secret Historian, will have to admit that the bar is now set high. Samuel Steward, the subject of this absorbing act of biographical excavation, had many identities, including several that the subtitle of the book omits . . . Be assured that it’s all for real, and that Spring, even when neck-deep in sensational material, is not a sensationalist. As a biographer, he’s humble but firm—he lets Steward’s vivid, energetic prose do much of the talking but keeps his own hand on the tiller and never gets giddy, even when Steward seems to be carousing his way through the entire Modern Library . . . The probity and expansive vision of Spring’s work is a reminder that a great, outspread terrain of gay history remains to be mapped . . . One suspects there are many more stories of that time worth telling, and too few treasure-packed attics.” —Mark Harris, The New York Times Book Review

“Can a secret sex diary furnish an artistic legacy as meaningful as Emily Dickinson’s sewn-up bundles of poems, or the piles of paintings Theo van Gogh inherited after his brother’s premature demise? Samuel Steward may never have imagined it, but his erotic history raises the question. A talented writer who early attracted the attention of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder, he found his career blocked by a determination (so different from hers and his) to write candidly about his homosexuality . . . Steward was an obsessive record keeper, and his journals and his ‘Stud File’ of thousands of encounters allow [Justin Spring] to create a remarkably...


Product details

  • File Size: 914 KB
  • Print Length: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Publication Date: August 17, 2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003P8OYYW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,729 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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96 customer reviews

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